The Arts Club’s production of Avenue Q is a slick balance of polished performance and a bottle rocket blast of glee, but it’s what beats behind the hype and humour that makes it so successful.
[pullquote]This talented cast of actor/puppeteers slip between puppet and voice with such dizzying skill that you almost forget they’re there. Their expressions become an emotional subtitle for the puppets, enhancing rather than impeding our connection with them.[/pullquote]Set in a fictional world of puppets, people, and monsters, Avenue Q follows Princeton, a fresh college grad, as he starts life in the real world. With a B.A. in English and little prospects, he learns life lessons from the residents in his shabby apartment on this trash strewn street. Sound familiar? Switch shapes for sex, and numbers for nihilism and you’ve hit on the “Sesame Street for adults” tag that’s so often attached to this show.
But it’s more than that. Avenue Q combines the warm fuzzy feelings of a Saturday morning special with the humour and razor wit of South Park. While songs like “The Internet is for Porn” and “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” verbalize all those truths hiding under the rug, the heart of the show lies in the honesty of its message: “don’t worry, it’s only for now”. This production of Avenue Q zeroes in on the humanity of that theme, revealing that honesty and love are the real reasons it is such a favourite and not just because the acrobatic puppet sex.
This talented cast of actor/puppeteers slip between puppet and voice with such dizzying skill that you almost forget they’re there. Their expressions become an emotional subtitle for the puppets, enhancing rather than impeding our connection with them.
Jeremy Crittenden (Princeton/Rod) is gleefully open in both his singing and movement which creates a fully three dimensional human out of a sheet of felt. Kayla Dunbar (Kate Monster/Lucy T. Slut) is a bewitching split-personality, voicing both the sweet girl-next door and the whore who wants something more. Flipping between frustrated teacher and sultry singer, her voice has a tone filled with warmth and honey.
It is Selina Wong (Christmas Eve) though whose vocals truly steal the show. Her rendition of “The More You Ruv Someone” is a standout moment where artistry, technique, and comedic sensibilities combine to create something truly unforgettable.
Ultimately it is the combination of art, technique and comedy that comes together so perfectly to create something so real. Perhaps that is the true Avenue Q secret to success; take the incredible talent of its performers, musicians, and crew, mix it with hours of rehearsal time, and throw it all on stage in order to tell the audience one simple thing: your life may be crap, but it’s only for now.
And if that isn’t a message of love, then I don’t know what is.
Avenue Q. Music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx. Book by Jeff Whitty. An Arts Club Theatre Company production. On stage at the Granville Island Stage (1585 Johnston Street, Vancouver) until January 3, 2015. Visit https://artsclub.com for tickets and information.